Turkey defies Greece, extends Mediterranean exploration

Turkish soldiers march during a parade to mark Victory Day in Ankara, Turkey, 30 August 2020. Turkey celebrates its Victory Day in commemoration of the Battle of Dumlupinar, a key victory over Greece on 30 August 1922 in Turkey's War of Independence. [Stringer/EPA/EFE]

Turkey said on Monday (31 August) that its Oruç Reis exploration vessel will now carry out seismic surveys in a disputed part of the eastern Mediterranean until 12 September, in a move likely to stoke tensions in the region.

Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, vehemently disagree over claims to hydrocarbon resources in the area based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.

Both sides have held military exercises in the east Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for the dispute over the extent of their continental shelves to escalate.

Turkey defies EU ultimatum, threatens with war

If Greece expands its maritime borders in the Aegean Sea, this will be a cause of war, Turkish foreign affairs minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Saturday (29 August).

The Turkish navy issued a new advisory saying that the work of the Oruç Reis would continue until 12 September. It had previously been scheduled to work until 1 September.

The advisory referred to a specific exploration area. But on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the Oruç Reis would continue working for the next 90 days as it moved gradually closer to the Turkish province of Antalya.

Seismic surveys are part of preparatory work for potential hydrocarbon exploration. Turkey has also been exploring for hydrocarbon resources in the Black Sea and discovered a 320 billion cubic metre gas field.

Separately, Turkey also said it will hold a military exercise off northwest Cyprus until 11 September.

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